How Restaurant Management Prepared Me for Motherhood


July 1, 2013

If I'm being honest, I never considered myself a particularly maternal person. Some of you that know me well enough may even be snickering. From my point of view, my mom - Mama Marshall - is the very definition of maternal: kind, gracious, endlessly forgiving (unless you hurt one of her children), completely selfless with never-ending love and concern for those she cares about. I see these characteristics strongly reflected in my sister, "the sweet one," but not so much in myself.

I also never really considered restaurant management a choice for my career path until I suddenly I was a restaurant manager. I loved school and my plan was to go back and ultimately become a professor. Then I graduated, started working full time, and quickly realized that I loved working more. One of the obvious joys of the restaurant industry is making people happy with great food and service. But another is the people that you get to work with in the business. We are a hodgepodge, mixed up group of people from every walk of life imaginable coming together under one roof for the same purpose of not only needing a job, but also wanting one that we can enjoy and take pride in.

When I opened Puckett's in Nashville as the General Manager, I quickly had to figure out how to not only manage but earn the trust and respect of the most diverse group of people that I've ever worked with. Being in the downtown hub of the "big city," almost no one is actually from Tennessee. There are college students working to pay their tuition, single moms supporting their families, single dads doing the same, married parents also doing the same, people taking care of their older parents, folks in between careers, musicians and artists that have migrated to the area to share their talents, the ones that are always about to go back to school, the ones that are just trying to figure it all out, the hardworking high school kids, the nomads, and the restaurant careerists.

When Tyler and I decided that we were ready to expand our family, I wondered if I was truly ready to be completely responsible with another person's life. The answer is there is no way to be completely prepared for parenthood, but I now realize that my restaurant family has taught me a whole heckuva lot about raising my own family.

Here are the top 14 lessons I've learned:

  1. It is crucial to set clear rules with known consequences. Everyone likes to know where the boundaries of their sandbox are, and it's also important to allow freedom and flexibility to play as they wish in that sandbox. It is equally important to follow through on those consequences consistently.
  2. I will be tested on those boundaries over and over and over again. I will have the same conversation almost daily reminding my children of the rules and why they are in place. I have to be resolute and consistent or the system will break down.
  3. It is not enough to make the rules, I have to also live by them myself. How can I expect my child to do something they've never seen me do?
  4. When someone is having a tantrum, it is best to remove them from the situation completely.
  5. There is no such thing as a normal, routine day. Every day will have a wrench thrown in with a new problem that I never knew could exist. It is important to be flexible and to go with with the flow. This has been a particularly difficult lesson for this Type A gal.
  6. It is never good to overreact to a mistake out of anger and frustration in the heat of the moment. It is better to wait and talk about it rationally in a calm environment.
  7. I will inevitably overreact out of anger and frustration. But when I do, it's goes a very long way to just say I'm sorry.
  8. Not everyone thinks the same way I do, and neither will my child. I will have to accept this.
  9. I've learned how to listen and determine whether a person needs action and solutions, or if they just need to vent. I'm thinking this will come in handy when my daughter is a teenager.
  10. I've learned how to absorb someone's anger and frustration when it is directed at me, even though it's not always really about me. Also, sometimes it is about me and they might just have a point. I think this will also come in handy when my daughter is a teenager.
  11. It is my job to stand in the gap and protect my family from threatening people or situations, and that I am strong enough to do it.
  12. I will tell my child the same thing I tell my team, and which my mom always told me: If you're not comfortable doing something that doesn't seem right, you can always just blame me.
  13. Almost every problem can be resolved over comfort food.
  14. I absolutely without a doubt know when someone is bulls***ing me.

So thank you to my restaurant family for testing me, stretching me, exhausting me, strengthening me, and loving me. While I still might not be the most traditional definition of maternal, I am prepared to be the best kind of mom that I know how to be.


xx Claire